Spring training brought talks of a quest to repeat as World Series champions. Red Sox manager Alex Cora decided that, instead of putting the success of 2018 behind them, he would encourage the team to “keep it going.” What has resulted, at least through week one, has been as poor a start as anyone could imagine. The Red Sox struggles have been all encompassing, as a sleepy offense, lethargic starting rotation, and an inconsistent bullpen have quickly snowballed into a 2-7 start. Some of the numbers suggest a team that is spiraling downward.
The Red Sox struggles start with the rotation
The most prevalent issue so far has been a staff that holds a 7.02 ERA. That is the worst start to a season by Red Sox pitching since ERA became a stat in 1913, per Alex Speier of the Boston Globe. The most surprising note? 23 home runs allowed through 9 games in 2019, versus 5 allowed in 2018. Home runs are up across baseball to start the year, following the home run boom of the last few seasons. But even so, the Sox have been getting blasted out of the park, and it shows no signs of slowing.
Amidst all these poor starts, the team has put together exactly one quality start. One. That belongs to staff ace Chris Sale, who held the Oakland A’s to just one run over six innings on April 2nd. Sale, however, was tagged for seven runs, including three homers, in an opening day blowout by the Seattle Mariners. David Price, on the bump tonight for Boston, will look to end the Red Sox struggles. He came an out away from recording a quality start against the A’s on April 1 before allowing a two-run bomb to Chad Pinder.
If things are going to change for Boston, it is going to have to start with its hurlers working deeper and more efficiently into games. The home runs have to come down significantly.
The Red Sox struggles are also fueled by the offense
While the club is averaging 4.5 runs per game, batters have succumbed to the pressure in high-leverage situations at the dish. For the season, the Red Sox have held a lead for exactly six out of 89 innings played. They have led for just 6 percent of their innings played. That is accompanied by late inning comebacks in both of their wins, meaning they easily could be 0-9.
The team needs more production out of players like Rafael Devers, who Cora pegged to hit third in the lineup. The young third baseman finished 2018 strong, leaving the organization hopeful for a big jump this year. So far, Devers has yet to drive in a run and possesses just two extra-base hits. Andrew Benintendi has struggled mightily to get on base, which is troublesome for a leadoff hitter. His .289 OBP is well below his career average of .357, thus holding the Sox back from gaining leads early in games.
The Red Sox struggles will not end without improvement on both sides of the ball
Per Speier, “of the more than 200 teams to reach the postseason since the introduction of the wild-card round in 1995, just four have overcome a performance as poor as the Red Sox’ through the first nine games.” Yikes.
The Red Sox find themselves on the wrong side of history to begin 2019. If they have any hopes of making the playoffs once again, things have to turn around soon. Or else.